Andover residents have seen a spike in unemployment fraud cases in October, according to police spokesperson Lt. Edward Guy.
There were over 140 reports of unemployment fraud in the month of October, almost three times the amount of reports made in September, Guy said.
During the month of August there were only 15 reports of someone falsely claiming unemployment for an Andover resident, Guy said.
Unemployment fraud has been rampant in the state since March when the COVID-19 pandemic forced an economic shutdown, causing millions of people across the state and country to lose their jobs.
With the flood of legitimate unemployment claims came many illegitimate claims, the state of Massachusetts said in a statement in July.
"Criminal enterprises in possession of stolen personal information from earlier national data breaches have been attempting to file large amounts of illegitimate unemployment claims through the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) system," the statement from the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development said. "This is part of a national unemployment fraud scheme."
In July the state added the step of verifying unemployment status with a resident's former employer to ensure they were unemployed. That allowed the state to catch fraudulent claims, although it made processing claims take longer, DUA said.
“Protecting the integrity of the unemployment system and ensuring benefits are only going to valid claimants is the top priority of the Department of Unemployment Assistance,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta.
“It is unfortunate that because of this criminal activity, people who really need our support may face delays in receiving the benefits they need. We will continue to work with our state and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as our dedicated constituent service personnel, to ensure that those with valid unemployment claims receive financial assistance during these difficult times.”
Prior to August, people who had fraudulent unemployment claims made in their name were asked to report it to DUA. Currently, people are being asked to report it to both DUA and local police departments, Guy said.
DUA is working with state and federal authorities to investigate the claims. The department and local police advise anyone who has had a fraudulent claim made in their name to monitor their credit and report any suspicious activity, Guy said.